Exodus 3:1-3 Moses was now a simple shepherd having lost his title and privilege as a prince in Egypt. Taking care of sheep was part of his training to be a shepherd of Israel. God identifies Himself as a Shepherd, the Good Shepherd (Ezekiel 34:1-22; Ps. 23). In addition, his father-in-law Jethro, was a priest of his people this too helped in his preparation. Moses would give Israel instruction about the priesthood, and in the future his entire tribe would be priests and he and his brother were Kohanim, the division of Levites that would serve in the Holy Place. The Lord led Moses to shepherd his sheep at the foot of Horeb (Mount Sinai). It was there that a supernatural encounter with God took place. God, in the form of the “Angel of the LORD” appeared in a fiery appearance to Moses. Moses is now 80 years old having giving up all hope of being a deliverer of his people. But now at last Moses was humbled enough so that he could be empowered and directed by God.
These verses describe Moses’ encounter with the Angel of the Lord. Initially ge had no idea what he was seeing beyond the fact that it was a bush on fire burning steadily without being consumed. Moses was familiar with this type of bush as he may have used them to keep warm by burning them, but he had never seen something like this. Moses was drawn to this unusual sight wanting to understand it by getting closer. God used this burning bush, as he so often uses things and circumstances, to draw people closer to Himself.
The term “the Angel of the LORD,” appears 67 times in the Tenakh. This is the only occurrence in Exodus, though he appeared in both Gen 16 to Hagar when she was fleeing Sarah, and in Gen 22 when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac. Grammatically in Hebrew this expression is a construct and according to the rule of constructs, both elements must be either definite or indefinite. Since the proper noun “Yahweh” is definite, the noun that precedes it musts also be definite; so the phrase can’t mean “an angel of the Lord” but points to definiteness, “the Angel of the LORD.” So it is best translated as “the angel that is LORD” or “the Angel LORD” or “Angel LORD.” Does this imply that the Lord is merely an angel as the Jehovah’s Witnesses suggest? No, there are times that this “Angel of the LORD” is either called “the LORD” (Gen 12:7; 17:1; 18:1) or becomes recognized as the LORD (Gen 16:13:“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me’” also in Gen 48:15–16. While not definitive most theologians believe that The Angel of the Lord is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus.
Exodus 3:4–5 When Moses came closer to the bush, He began to reveal himself (Exodus 3:4) from the fire by addressing Moses. Repeating his name twice is a Biblical way of demonstrating God’s favor or endearment as in 1 Sam 3:4. Moses’ reply, henenni (“Here am I”), is a response that suggests submission. This was the same response of Abraham in Gen 22 when God called him to sacrifice his son Isaac. God began to teach Moses about his holiness (Exodus 3:5). The divine Presence is emphasized by the command to not be too near to His holiness because of the danger of not being holy (sanctified). In Ex. 19:9–25 conditions of sanctification and distance are imposed on Israel when Moses is called up to receive the covenant at Sinai. Moses must take off his sandals. Taking off shoes was done when entering the presence of a superior person. The Lord’s presence made the ground holy, something said of only one other place, the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Exodus 3:6 This verse designates who the true God is. Moses was told that he was speaking with the God of his fathers. Yeshua quotes this verse in Matthew 22:32 “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” He was assuring Moses he was a part of Israel’s tradition of faith and had the opportunity to know the true God just as his fathers did since Abraham. He was told of God’s faithful provision over the many generations since Abraham, according to the promises of Gen 15:13-14, which was beginning to come to fruition. Moses is afraid, as any mortal would be when entering into the presence of God. Jacob expressed this in Gen 32:30, “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared”; as did Manoah and his wife in Judg 13:22, “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”. Later Moses would be allowed to see God in part (Exod 24:1–2; 33:21–23) an extremely unusual privilege. The fact that God made himself visible in human form represents the highest earthly experience of seeing God (John 14:9), far surpassing even Moses’ experience.
Exodus 3:7-10 Moses now learns that God cares for his people and plans to deliver them from Egypt to the Promised Land. He has come down (Exodus 3:8) to intervene for Israel. The phrase a land flowing with milk speaks to Moses as a shepherd conveying that he and Israel will be brought to a land ideal for raising goats and cows who produce milk. Honey refers to the bees making honey from flowers growing in the land. Milk and honey suggest agricultural prosperity. The land is currently occupied by 7 nations: Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Girgashites and Jebusites (Deut. 7:1; Acts 13:19). God told Moses how He would bring the deliverance of His people. He would use Moses, not in his own strength but by His power. God said He was sending Moses. While God promised deliverance from Egypt and entrance into the land, He commissioned Moses to oversee the deliverance from Egypy. God knew that Moses would not enter the Promised Land (Deut. 32:48-52).
Two great challenges to Moses’ faith appear here. The first (Exodus 3:7) is a challenge shared by all of us: to trust that God is concerned about their suffering and yet allows sorrow and grief. That Israel had been experiencing oppression for such a long time without rescue causes many to ask of God, “If you are willing to help now, why didn’t you help earlier?” The Bible provides answers to this question, but we for the most part cannot normally know why at times our particular suffering is so severe or has gone on as long as it has. The second challenge (v. 10) involves Moses’ past: how could one who tried and failed to help his fellow Israelites forty years earlier, be God’s choice as deliverer of the nation? God clearly sees the plight of the Israel in their forced labor and describes it with four terms: “misery… crying out… slave drivers… suffering.” God declares: “I have surely seen… I have heard them… I know their suffering.” The first of these, “I have surely seen” in the Hebrew connotes the sense “I have carefully watched” or “I have paid very close attention to,” indicating God’s interest in the misery of his people. God calls Israel “my people.” Verse 8 declares God’s rescue plan. The wording “I have come down” is what God did in Messiah Yeshua to rescue all mankind.
Exodus 3:11-12 The first response from Moses is an objection to God’s call, claiming he was inadequate. It sounds reasonable, after 40 years away from Egypt, what could a shepherd in the wilderness do? But what Moses thought of himself, or what others thought wasn’t important. God’s word and call was all that he necessary for assurance that he was the man for the job. Moses needed to look to the Lord not to himself. It seems that over the years he was out of fellowship and communion with God. But God says “I will be with you” this is all the we need in order to succeed in each of our callings in life (Josh. 1:5; Isa. 41:10; 43:5).
Exodus 3:13-15 – If Moses was to represent God, he had to reveal His character to the Jewish people. Of course, God’s name “YHVH” had been revealed to Seth and Enosh in the godly line of Adam (Gen. 4:26) and the Name was familiar to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (14:22; 15:1; 25:21-22; 28:13; 49:18). What Moses asked was, “What does Your name mean? What kind of a God are You?” God explained that the Name יְהוָֹה (YHVH) is a dynamic name, based on the Hebrew verb “to be” or “to become.” He is the self-existent One who always was, always is, and always will be, the faithful and dependable God who calls Himself “I AM.” It is I am in the masculine form and I am in the feminine form. In the time of Jesus He would take the name “I AM” and complete it: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), “I am the light of the world” (Exodus 8:12), “I am the true vine” (Exodus 15:1), and John 8:58 “Jesus said to them, “ Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” In Second Temple times, as an expression of reverence, Jews began to avoid uttering the name, substituting “adonai” (Master) and other substitutes such as Hashem (the Name).
Exodus 3:16-22 – God then charges Moses to call the elders as he will be the one to whom God will speak to Israel in the days to come. The Hebrew word for elder means lit. “bearded ones,” pointing to their age, wisdom, experience and influence necessary for a man to serve in the role as an elder. Their duties included judicial decisions and sentencing (Deuteronomy 22:13–19), as well as military leadership (Jos 8:10) and counsel (1Sa 4:3). God knows the end from the beginning and tells Moses exactly what would happen when he returns to Egypt. The elders will accept Moses as their leader and believe that God was indeed about to deliver them. The king of Egypt would resist God’s message and suffer the judgment of God. Israel will be delivered from the land and will plunder the Egyptians receiving the wages they hadn’t been paid during their slavery. This would be done by force by the power of God’s hand, His miracles (the plagues). Only then will the king of Egypt let them go. In this way the Egyptians will provide every household (every woman) with wealth and provisions. Abraham’s journey to Egypt foreshadowed these events. This overview was given to encourage Moses, and the people, that God’s plan will unfold exactly as He had foretold. As His promises are fulfilled as He said, they would be able to trust Him to fulfill His promise to enable them to conquer the land.